Sunday, May 24, 2015

Hope and Blessing Upon You

The words never seem to correctly convey our feelings in moments like these. How blessed we are to live in this country and yet how much more we desire it to be. Today, though, we take a moment to verbally honor and thank those who have fallen protecting us and our way of life and advancing freedom for those they would never know domestic and abroad. Most importantly we take time to consider the children, parents, spouses, comrades and friends of those who are here no more. Words sometimes cannot express what only sympathetic tears attempt to. Whatever our political stances are, today we say we love you, and are so thankful for the daily sacrifices your family continues to make in the absence of your loved one. With abundant gratitude, my family and I pray for an extra portion of comfort, hope and blessing upon you this Memorial Day. - Benjamin Watson, American Football Player

Image and quote source here

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Orange Hollandaise Sauce Recipe

Sauce hollandaise is the classic sauce served warm with such dishes as the Eggs Benedict, steamed fish, or cooked asparagus. The sauce is traditionally made out of egg yolks and butter, and seasoned with lemon juice, white pepper and salt.

The history of the sauce is not quite clear. The name suggests that the sauce originated in Holland and was probably introduced to France by the French Protestants. 

A recipe for a thick egg sauce appeared in an old Dutch cookbook by Carel Baten in 1593. More than half a century later a Frenchman, François Pierre de la Varenne published a very influential cookbook "Le Cuisinier François" in which he described a butter sauce similar to hollandaise. His recipe called for butter, vinegar, nutmeg, salt and egg yolk.

Sauce hollandaise became quite popular in the 19th century. Sometimes called sauce Isigny after a town Isigny-sur-Mer that was known for its great-tasting butter, the sauce was generally known as the Dutch sauce for fish. 

Be warned, the sauce is not very easy to make and it requires a little practice. Once you mastered the art you will never ever buy a ready-made sauce at the grocery store. 

The recipe I am sharing with you is a variation of the traditional recipe. I am certain that you will love it. 

  • 3 egg yolks (use free range, organic eggs if you can)
  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter 
  • 3 Tbsp freshly pressed orange juice
  • 1/2 Tbsp freshly pressed lemon juice
  • 1/3 tsp cayenne pepper
  • Celtic sea salt to taste
  • 1 Tbsp orange zest for garnish
  • double boiler (bain-marie)
  • balloon whisk
  • citrus zester 
  • Fill the bottom pan of the double boiler with water and bring it to a simmer.
  • Place the egg yolks, lemon juice and 2 Tbsp of the orange juice in the top pan of the double boiler. 
  • Set the top pan on top of the pan with water and whisk the yolks vigorously until they begin to warm up and thicken. Be careful here. The top pan should not touch the water or you will get scrambled eggs!
  • Add 1 Tbsp of butter and whisk until the butter melts and is fully incorporated into the sauce. Add another tablespoon of butter and repeat. Proceed in this manner until the whole butter is used up. Continue whisking until the sauce thickens again. The volume should almost double.
  • Take the top pan off the pan with water and place it on the working surface. Season the sauce with salt and cayenne pepper and mix well. If the sauce is too thick, whisk in the remaining orange juice. The sauce should have creamy, almost velvety consistency.
  • Serve your hollandaise with boiled white and green asparagus, garnish with orange zest and enjoy it in good company!

By Dominique Allmon

Dominique Allmon©2015

Saturday, May 16, 2015

Karkadè - The Drink of the Pharaohs

Many years ago I had a chance to visit Sudan for the first time. Back then the capitol city of Khartoum had only one good hotel. It was The Hilton on the White Nile which accommodated not only business people and the few tourists that made it there, but also important guests of the State. Colonel Gaddafi was visiting Sudan at that time and I had a pick at him and his female body guards while sipping hibiscus tea at the lobby lounge. It was an interesting sight, I must admit.

Khartoum had very few attractions at that time. On Fridays everybody went to the local market to watch the dervish dances and sip karkadè that was served with a ladle straight from a large bucket filled with ice and hibiscus tea. Most European visitors stayed clear of the bucket, I assure you.

You could enjoy a "safe" karkadè in the hotel, though. This delicious hibiscus  tea which was served either hot or chilled, and it tasted a bit different from what hibiscus tea tasted like back home.      

Karkadè is also drunk in Egypt where its tradition supposedly goes back to the times of the pharaohs. The tea is made out of dark red calyces that form around the seed pods of flowers collected from a roselle shrub (Hibiscus sabdariffa). The plant is native to West Africa, but it also grows in many other parts of the world including Australia, China, Nepal, Mexico, and the Caribbean.

The tea has a rather tart taste that is a bit similar to cranberry or tart cherry juice. To camouflage the tartness and make it more palatable, karkadè is often served with a lot of sugar. Unfortunately, the sweeter it is, the less it qualifies as a thirst quencher.

In Nigeria (at the Hilton hotel in Abuja, for instance) hibiscus tea is served chilled, with rock sugar, fresh ginger, cloves, and black pepper. It is supposed to improve blood circulation and aid digestion. It tastes great and combines the healing qualities of ginger, black pepper, cloves, and hibiscus. You can make your own by following a few simple steps. The amount of sugar, spices and hibiscus flowers can be adjusted to your personal liking. Experiment! It's fun.

  • 5 cups water
  • 1 inch fresh ginger root
  • 1 tsp black pepper
  • 1 tsp crushed cloves
  • 1 Tbsp rock sugar (use more or less, depending on your personal liking)
  • 1/2 cup dried hibiscus flowers

  • In a large enough pot, bring water, spices and sugar to boil. Simmer for a few minutes and set aside to cool.
  • Place hibiscus flowers in a jar or a carafe.
  • Using a strainer, pour the now cool water with spices into your chosen vessel. Mix well.
  • Place the now almost ready hibiscus drink in the fridge and let it sit for a few hours. This step will not only help to chill it well, but also to release the "essence" and the color of hibiscus flowers into your spicy liquid.
  • Enjoy the drink in good company, with or without ice cubes.
You can, of course, skip the cooling of the tea and have it warm, if you prefer. My concern is that heat destroys the vitamin C in hibiscus. Also, using too much sugar makes the drink less healthy. 

Northern Nigerians also prepare hibiscus tea with pineapple rind and ginger. The drink is known as the Zobo drink. Hibiscus tea is known in many cultures where it is greatly appreciated for its health benefits. Hibiscus flowers are rich in the vitamin C and anthocynins that have the capacity to fight free radicals in the body and strengthen the immune system.

Studies have demonstrated that karkadè may help fight hypertension since it contains compounds that act as the ACE (angiotensin-converting enzyme) inhibitors. In fact, the effects of drinking hibiscus tea were similar to the effects of popular anti-hypertensive drugs. The tea also helped reduce the amount of sodium in blood without affecting the levels of potassium. More studies have to be conducted, but one thing is certain, unlike many drugs, hibiscus tea is well tolerated by patients with hypertension.

To prepare a simple hibiscus infusion, rinse a handful of dried hibiscus calyces in running water and place them in a teapot. Bring four cups of purified water into a boiling point, then allow it to cool a bit. Pour the water into a teapot and steep the flowers for about five minutes. Strain the deep red liquid through a sieve and pour it into glasses. Add a little sugar, honey or liquid stevia and enjoy it warm, or chill it in the fridge.

You can also place the hibiscus flowers in a jar and pour cold purified water. I use 1 heaping table spoon of dried flowers for each cup of water and keep the jar in the fridge. I allow at least one day for infusion to chill nicely and drink it with ice on hot days.

By Dominique Allmon

P.S. It is advised not to steep the flowers in hot water for more than ten minutes since the infusion will become bitter. Steeping hibiscus flowers in cold water does not turn the infusion bitter, but it will make it more acidic.

Dominique Allmon©2015

*Information in this article is for educational purposes only. It is not meant to diagnose or cure a disease.

Friday, May 1, 2015

Expectation of a Miracle

Hairdressers in the sun, 1966 by Robert Doisneau 

"Yes, the expectation of a miracle. It’s very childish, but at the same time it’s almost like an act of faith. We find a backdrop and wait for the miracle. I remember a backdrop that never worked for me, possibly because I didn’t wait long enough, or didn’t return to it often enough. In the foreground you can see the steps of Saint Paul’s church, the background is a perfect faubourg, as you imagine them from literature or movies. I frame it in my viewfinder, from rue de Turenne to a shop called Le Gant d’Or, and wait there for an hour, sometimes two, thinking, “my God, something is bound to happen”. I imagine events I would like to photograph, one wilder than the other. But nothing happens, nothing. Or if it does – bang – it’s so different from what I expected that I miss it. The miracle did take place, but I wasted it, because I didn’t pay the right kind of attention. When you are tired, you become unable to react, your emotion is no longer available." - Robert Doisneau

Image source here